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I have a playlist called ‘Lofi favourites’, which became the soundtrack to much of the studying I did at university. One of the first songs I added to the playlist was a song called ‘If I Ever Build a House’. It’s a bit repetitive, just some strings and synths over a beat track, but the opening lines always meant a lot to me. They sound like some old man in search of something, and finally finding it, ‘the most beautiful spot I’d ever seen in my life’, on the edges of the mountains. There’s something in those lines that resonated – that desire to be away from things, to live and dwell amongst beauty – pure, elemental beauty.

The Eight Mountains certainly deals in beauty, and lots of it. I sometimes suspect that having the Italian Alps as a backdrop to every shot must make the cinematographers job a bit easier. How could every shot not look beautiful? Of course, I do a disservice to the immense skill required to frame and capture the shot at just that right angle, like when the sun’s rays are split perfectly into individual beams just as it rises above the jagged edges of the horizon. It’s only to make the point that the film’s setting is captured as it is truly experienced: breathtaking, panoramic, sublime.

But I won’t spend all my time just looking at ‘Nature’, as Bruno, one half of the film’s central male friendship, is quick to call out the city-dwellers for. What do they even mean by ‘Nature’? Some vague gesture to the whole panoramic scene? Those who actually live in the mountains, who work within it, who depend on it for their survival could never survive with such disconnected language. Their language is a language of everyday acquaintance, of economy and use. Bruno has words from his own dialect, and other characters seem genuinely curious about what unique names he has for things. Yet, he still feels inferior to his friend Pietro’s vaster vocabulary. Poor words mean poor thoughts, he chastises himself. Sometimes, however, words are not necessary. Especially towards the end of the movie, things become uncomfortably quiet. I began to wonder if I would be able to survive a 1-on-1 scenario so devoid of speech. So much is left unsaid between these two men, like so many male friendships, and it is up to the viewers to try to piece the threads of their connection together as they weave in and out of each other’s life. Their final, reconciliatory hug next to the open fire is one of the film’s many images that will stick with me.

Pietro’s father, Giovanni, lives two lives; one pent up in the city, and other in the mountains. How many of us can viscerally relate to a similar predicament? It takes him a while to shake that protective guard that shields him from his job in the city – ironically, it’s in the icy glaciers that he begins to thaw. It’s heartwarming to see him support his son through his altitude sickness, the kind of encouragement all of us have craved at some point in our childhood. But their relationship never seems particularly close – they are too different, too stubborn to accept each other’s differences. When Pietro finds and reads his father’s notebooks written whilst hiking with his son, I couldn’t help myself tearing up. There is so much that is never communicated between fathers and sons.

I found the scenes in Nepal to be a bit cliched –  playing into the stock trope of ‘finding yourself’ in Southern Asia, but then I guess if you were an aimless, romantic, 30-something with a penchant for mountains (like Pietro is), who is looking to make something of your life, Nepal would be a logical place to explore. Still, The Eight Mountains is a film that demands your time and attention, and, if you’re willing to give it, rewards it in abundance.


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